Ellen Brokaw of Brokaw Nursery
December, 2013: I had the pleasure of meeting Ellen Brokaw through her daughter in-law Katie at the Ventura County Fair Livestock Auction last August. I met many long time Ventura County Aggies that day and when Katie heard I didn’t have a BBQ meal ticket she quickly walked me over to meet Ellen who had an extra. Both Ellen and Katie seem to be cut from the same cloth – solid, very capable, smart and generous women.
Brokaw Nursery was founded in 1956. Production of avocado and citrus trees has been the principal focus of the nursery. The Ventura County’s 2012 Crop and Livestock Report states Nursery Stock (includes cut Christmas Trees) is ranked 4th in agricultural value at $186,351,000 up over $20 million from 2011. Ellen said, “Participating in the Nursery with my husband allowed me to develop new skills – accounting and personnel management – put me in contact with people and places in all the avocado growing regions of the world, and provided a springboard into Ventura County community work on various non-profit boards.” She continues, “Ventura County is an ideal size – it’s possible to really make a difference in the community – I love that. And the community of farmers is a wonderful one. We do follow traditional practices, producing contracts for tree sales etc. But a handshake would work in most cases. Trust and honor are practiced values.” I agree with you Ellen. That’s one of the many ways that make our county very special.
When I asked her about the future of the local nursery business she explained, “We are always guessing about the future demands for our nursery trees – avocados and citrus. When the fruit price goes up, farmers place orders and conversely when it goes down. One major new pest can totally change the landscape. We have to start the trees before we have firm orders so we cross our fingers a lot but generally we are optimistic about the continuing prosperity of agriculture in Ventura County. ”
If you know Ellen you know Farm Worker Housing is a top priority and big concern of hers. The history of House Farm Workers is admirable. For years she wanted to find a way to address the need for better and affordable homes and finally found a way when the AFA took the issue on in approx 2002, very soon after AFA began. The AFA Farm Worker Housing Committee published a report and then held a Summit in Santa Paula in 2004. Three hundred people came to the Summit and 150 signed up to work on the problem. From that was born the education and advocacy program they call House Farm Workers. Now with six committees in six cities and a county-wide task force. They invite people who care about agriculture and the people who make it possible to join a committee, arrange a showing of our film, Mi Casa Es Su Casa, testify before City Councils, give money, or just talk to their neighbors . Ellen said, “Farm workers are pretty invisible and their lives unknown to most people. We can’t ever do enough informing and educating – most people respond when they make the connection between continuing pretty green fields and the people who work in them and also see the faces and learn about the lives of the workers and their families.” I couldn’t agree more. SEEAG takes pride that we teach Ventura County Students we all need to appreciate and respect our Farm Workers. Without them we wouldn’t have food on our table. To learn more about the backbone of Ventura County Agriculture please visit House Farm Workers